1959 to 1975: Vietnam War

42,500 American Indians served in Southeast Asia. Veterans are especially honored and carry the colors at the invocation of most Pow Wows today.

1970’s: Activism

The American Indian Movement (AIM) was the most militant of the Indian protest groups, and started in Minnesota during the Vietnam Era to protest police discrimination in Minneapolis. The group had a following mainly in Montana, North and South Dakota, and Idaho (Nabokov, 1991, 373-380). Depending upon the tribe of origin and geographical experience with reservation living and culture, the older American Indian will have very different perspectives on the activism of the 1970’s.

Occupation of Alcatraz–November 27, 1969

Although this occupation was conceived and supported by the inter-tribal group at the San Francisco Indian Center for “Indians Of All Tribes”, shortly after the occupation by mostly activist Indian students from the Bay Area, some of the more militant American Indian Movement members joined the group which resulted in serious internal conflicts, and many of the local Indians withdrew support. The Ohlone did not participate as they said the island is cursed.

The intention of the invasion was to demand attention to the health, educational, employment, and cultural needs of Indians, and especially the lack of social services available for off-reservation Indians. Of major import were religious freedom (guaranteed all citizens under the Constitution), the return of ancestral artifacts, and the continued desecration of Indian burial sites.

Occupation of Wounded Knee–February 27, 1973

Began the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation, site of the 1890 Sioux Indian massacre by US soldiers. The dispute started with the Oglala Sioux traditionalist’s claim that they were being denied participation in tribal decisions by the authoritarian regime of Pine Ridge Reservation chairman Richard Wilson. Armed American IndianM members joined the conflict, and two AIM members were killed in the crossfire. Many Indians, including Vine Deloria Jr., felt that an opportunity was missed to educate the public to the problems of Indians on and off reservations, but many felt that it was a return to warrior tradition after decades of oppression and signaled an era of “Red Power” (Dennis Banks, AIM leader). (Nabokov, 1991, pp.361-2)

1972: Land Return

Yakima Tribe is returned 21,000 acres in the state of Washington.

1974: Eagle Bay Occupation

Mohawks occupy Eagle Bay at Moss Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, claiming original title to it.

1975: Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act

  • Authorized Indian tribes to assume responsibility for direct operation and administration of programs administered by federal agencies, including the Indian Health Service.
  • Authorized the Indian Health Service to make grants to tribes for planning, development, and/or operation of health programs. (John & Baldridge, 1996.)
  • Many Indians believed that “self-determination” is another disguise for “termination” in that the federal government is attempting to “terminate” it’s responsibility for providing health care and other services promised by treaty, legislation, and judicial review. (Nabakov, 1991)

1976: Indian Health Care Improvement Act (PL 94-437)

Affirmed the federal government’s “trust responsibility” to provide for the welfare of Indians including legal rights of Indians to certain health services. Provides ability for IHS to “contract” with local providers and agencies for services, and to provide services for both reservation and urban Indians. (Pevar, 1992, John, et al, 1996.)

  • Indians are eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Administration benefits on the same basis as other citizens, regardless of eligibility with IHS.
  • Some “contracting” local health facilities provide health services to eligible Indians by contract with IHS. When an Indian is eligible for both federal care under IHS, and for state assistance (Medicaid), Medicare, or private insurance, federal assistance is considered the secondary source.(Pevar, ibid.)

1978: Indian Child Welfare Act

Designed to stop removal of Indian children from reservations by state welfare agencies and state courts. (It has been estimated that 30% of Indian children were placed with non-Indian families from the 1920’s to 1978) (Jaimes, 1992, p.326).